A freedom of information request by Motoring Research has found that fewer young drivers are applying for a provisional driving licence compared to seven years ago.
The data, released by the DVLA, shows that new driving licence applications by 15 to 24-year-olds peaked at 788,246 in 2007, compared to 698,358 in 2013.
Under DVLA rules, you can apply for a licence when you’re 15 years and 9 months old, but not ride a moped until you’re 16, or drive a car until you’re 17.
The data reveals that 628,263 15 to 24-year-olds have applied for a provisional driving licence so far this year, meaning the number of applications from new drivers is unlikely to exceed 685,000 by the end of 2014.
It also shows that new driving licence applications by 16-year-olds peaked at 248,423 in 2006, and 254,384 for 17-year-olds.
Since then, the number has been steadily decreasing, with just 222,677 16-year-olds applying for their licence in 2013. That means around 26,000 fewer 16-year-olds, and 19,000 fewer 17-year-olds, took driving lessons last year.
An AA spokesperson told Motoring Research: “It is fair to say we have noticed a widening in the age range of people coming to us for lessons over the last few years, although learning to drive and taking the test at 17 is still the most popular age to do so. There are a number of reasons why people may wait before learning now, often it is because they wait until after finishing school or university, or until they need to drive for work.
“The recession also had an impact on the number of people learning to drive so, as we are now seeing an increase in demand for lessons again, there may be some people within that who delayed learning a year or so ago for financial reasons who now want to learn.”
According to the latest figures, so far in 2014, 202,522 16-year-olds and 204,417 17-year-olds have applied for their provisional driving licence.
By contrast, the number of 18-year-olds applying for a driving licence is actually increasing – suggesting that young drivers are leaving it later to learn to drive.
88,693 18-year-olds applied for their licence last year, compared to 75,805 in 2006.
The figures reflect claims by the AA that the cost of insuring a car for young drivers is increasing, putting people off taking lessons – despite a drop in fuel costs.